Asteroid Files: Achilles

Helios– Okay, I couldn’t just NOT do Achilles. He is the quintessential Aries, and leaving him off of the roster would have only been an affront to all things good and decent. Except Achilles rarely cares about what is good and decent, he’s just in it for the glory.

The Astronomy– 588 Achilles is a large and dark asteroid, classified as Jupiter trojan, the first and 6th-largest of its kind ever confirmed by astronomers. It was discovered on 22 February 1906, by the German astronomer Max Wolf at Heidelberg Observatory in southern Germany. It measures about 135 kilometers in diameter.

The D-type asteroid, classified as a DU-subtype in the Tholen taxonomic scheme, orbits the Sun at a distance of 4.4–6.0 AU in the L4 Lagrangian point of the Sun–Jupiter System once every 11 years and 10 months (4,337 days). Its orbit shows an eccentricity of 0.15 and an inclination of 10 degrees from the plane of the ecliptic. The asteroid is the first known example of the stable solution of the three-body problem worked out by French mathematician Joseph Lagrange in 1772, after whom the minor planet 1006 Lagrangea is named. After the discovery of other asteroids with similar orbital characteristics, which were also named after heroes from the Trojan War (see below), the term “Trojan asteroids” or “Jupiter trojans” became commonly used. In addition, a rule was established that the L4 point was the “Greek camp”, whereas the L5 point was the “Trojan camp”, though not before each camp had acquired a “spy” (624 Hektor in the Greek camp and 617 Patroclus in the Trojan camp).

The Mythology– In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War and the central character and greatest warrior of Homer’s Iliad. His mother was the immortal nymph Thetis, and his father, the mortal Peleus, was the king of the Myrmidons. Achilles’ most notable feat during the Trojan War was the slaying of the Trojan hero Hector outside the gates of Troy. Although the death of Achilles is not presented in the Iliad, other sources concur that he was killed near the end of the Trojan War by Paris, who shot him in the heel with an arrow. Later legends  state that Achilles was invulnerable in all of his body except for his heel. Alluding to these legends, the term “Achilles heel” has come to mean a point of weakness, especially in someone or something with a strong constitution.

Achilles’ name can be analyzed as a combination of ἄχος (akhos) “grief” and λαός (laos) “a people, tribe, nation.” In other words, Achilles is an embodiment of the grief of the people, grief being a theme raised numerous times in the Iliad (frequently by Achilles). Achilles’ role as the hero of grief forms an ironic juxtaposition with the conventional view of Achilles as the hero of κλέος kleos (“glory”, usually glory in war). According to the Achilleid, when Achilles was born Thetis tried to make him immortal, by dipping him in the river Styx. However, he was left vulnerable at the part of the body by which she held him, his heel. It is not clear if this version of events was known earlier. In another version of this story, Thetis anointed the boy in ambrosia and put him on top of a fire, to burn away the mortal parts of his body. She was interrupted by Peleus and abandoned both father and son in a rage. After, Peleus entrusted Achilles to Chiron the Centaur, on Mt. Pelion, to be reared.

The first two lines of the Iliad read:

μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί’ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε’ ἔθηκεν,
Sing, Goddess, of the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
the accursed rage that brought great suffering to the Achaeans (the Greeks).

Achilles’ consuming rage is at times wavering, but at other times he cannot be cooled. Thetis foretold that her son’s fate was either to gain glory and die young, or to live a long but uneventful life in obscurity. Achilles chose the former, and decided to take part in the Trojan war. Homer’s Iliad is the most famous narrative of Achilles’ deeds in the Trojan War. Achilles’ wrath is the central theme of the poem. The Homeric epic only covers a few weeks of the decade-long war, and does not narrate Achilles’ death. It begins with Achilles’ withdrawal from battle after he is dishonored by Agamemnon, the commander of the Achaean forces. Agamemnon had taken a woman named Chryseis as his slave. Her father Chryses, a priest of Apollo, begs Agamemnon to return her to him. Agamemnon refuses and Apollo sends a plague amongst the Greeks. The prophet Calchas correctly determines the source of the troubles but will not speak unless Achilles vows to protect him. Achilles does so and Calchas declares Chryseis must be returned to her father. Agamemnon consents, but then commands that Achilles’ battle prize Briseis be brought to him to replace Chryseis. Angry at the dishonor of having his plunder and glory taken away (and as he says later, because he loved Briseis), with the urging of his mother Thetis, Achilles refuses to fight or lead his troops alongside the other Greek forces. At this same time, burning with rage over Agamemnon’s theft, Achilles prays to Thetis to convince Zeus to help the Trojans gain ground in the war, so that he may regain his honor.

As the battle turns against the Greeks, thanks to the influence of Zeus, Nestor declares that the Trojans are winning because Agamemnon has angered Achilles, and urges the king to appease the warrior. Agamemnon agrees and sends Odysseus and two other chieftains, Ajax and Phoenix, to Achilles with the offer of the return of Briseis and other gifts. Achilles rejects all Agamemnon offers him, and simply urges the Greeks to sail home as he was planning to do. The Trojans, led by Hector, subsequently push the Greek army back toward the beaches and assault the Greek ships. With the Greek forces on the verge of absolute destruction, Patroclus leads the Myrmidons into battle wearing Achilles’ armor, though Achilles remains at his camp. Patroclus succeeds in pushing the Trojans back from the beaches, but is killed by Hector before he can lead a proper assault on the city of Troy. Triumphant Achilles dragging Hector’s lifeless body in front of the Gates of Troy.

After receiving the news of the death of Patroclus, Achilles grieves over his beloved companion’s death. His mother Thetis comes to comfort the distraught Achilles. She persuades Hephaestus to make new armor for him, in place of the armor that Patroclus had been wearing which was taken by Hector. Enraged over the death of Patroclus, Achilles ends his refusal to fight and takes the field killing many men in his rage but always seeking out Hector. Achilles even engages in battle with the river god Scamander who becomes angry that Achilles is choking his waters with all the men he has killed. The god tries to drown Achilles but is stopped by Hera and Hephaestus. Zeus himself takes note of Achilles’ rage and sends the gods to restrain him so that he will not go on to sack Troy itself before the time allotted for its destruction, seeming to show that the unhindered rage of Achilles can defy fate itself. Finally, Achilles finds his prey. Achilles chases Hector around the wall of Troy three times before Athena, in the form of Hector’s favorite and dearest brother, Deiphobus, persuades Hector to stop running and fight Achilles face to face. After Hector realizes the trick, he knows the battle is inevitable. Wanting to go down fighting, he charges at Achilles with his only weapon, his sword, but misses. Accepting his fate, Hector begs Achilles, not to spare his life, but to treat his body with respect after killing him. Achilles tells Hector it is hopeless to expect that of him, declaring that “my rage, my fury would drive me now to hack your flesh away and eat you raw – such agonies you have caused me”. Achilles then kills Hector and drags his corpse by its heels behind his chariot. After having a dream where Patroclus begs Achilles hold his funeral, Achilles hosts a series of funeral games in his honor.With the assistance of the god Hermes, Hector’s father, Priam, goes to Achilles’ tent to plead with Achilles for the return of Hector’s body so that he can be buried. Achilles relents and promises a truce for the duration of the funeral. The poem ends with a description of Hector’s funeral, with the doom of Troy and Achilles himself still to come.

Why He Matters– Okay, so there’s a lot of great stuff that I didn’t get to put in the myth section because of brevity, but Achilles’ hijinks are legendary. He is very much a point of great rage, but he is more than that. He is in service to his people, he is a leader, and their greatest hero. Unfortunately his rage and his passions are his undoing. Achilles lacks restraint, and that carries over to his position in your chart. His placement indicates where there was a lot of pressure placed on you, a mantle that was impossible to truly live up to. He is where you seek out glory, where you chase your fame.

To find out where he shows up in your chart, go to astro.com, put in your birth details and in the extended options, all the way at the bottom of the next page, there will be a menu of additional objects. Under that is a blank space where you can enter the number 588, for Achilles. Once you have it entered, generate the chart! Where does Achilles affect your life? Let us know in the comments below!